On December 17th 2014 I was diagnosed with gray-zone lymphoma (both Hodgkin’s and Non- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) after an ultrasound revealed a 13cm tumour growing in my upper chest.
At the time I was a 30 year newly wed and full time working mum of two young children.
My diagnosis was devastating to our entire family, as we navigated a whole new world busy with appointments, tests, scans and new medical terms. It was completely overwhelming. I spent the following 6 months receiving an intravenous double chemotherapy concoction in hospital every 21 days, which meant much of my year was spent away from my family. It was hard. I could feel us all drifting apart as we all coped day to day with our own mental struggles and the financial stress which had become our new normal.
Every day I would worry about Dan and the kids. Who was getting them to school? Did they have their school lunches packed with healthy food? Did they have a bath? Did they get a good dinner? It broke my heart to be away from them for so long.
We were cradled by our little community as friends delivered meals for our family and brought kids home from school when they were able. When we searched for government assistance, we were met with the harsh answer of ‘no assistance available’.
When we seeked respite in Tasmania, we found there were no services available either and mainland
organisations had waiting lists of up to 5 years.
Fortunately, my intense treatment was successful in terminating my tumour by my 31st birthday. While everyone celebrated around me I felt lost and grieved a year of life I felt like I had lost.
It had taken every bit of my strength to survive the past 6 months and I was left feeling ‘bald and broken’.
As I entered my recovery journey, a mum friend from my son’s school was diagnosed with breast cancer. She confided in me that she felt lost and unsupported and was desperate for a rest but couldn’t afford a break or to leave work while she cared for her 4 children. I felt her struggle deeply.
I decided that there was something missing in our experience…a service which supports young families struggling with a short term illness. A little respite. A break. A moment to catch a breath and feel connected with loved ones again.
And so the idea of Homely Retreats was born.
In 2018, I met Alison Rogers at a WNA luncheon and spoke about my ideas for an organisation which such services. A service that provided families with an opportunity to take a break together to rest and reconnect. Alison was quick to gather up a team of like- minded women, many whom had their own cancer journeys. From there we begin offering complimentary accommodation for Tasmanian families in need….the rest is history.
Homely Retreats exclusively provides respite across Tasmania , and since founding has provided support and respite for hundreds of Tasmanians and their families.